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Vineyard of the Lord
a sermon based on Isaiah 5:1-7
Guest Preacher, Rev. Roy Fowler Afton and Stone Dam UMC

A New York City businessman moved to the country and bought a piece of land. He went to the local feed and livestock store and talked to the proprietor about how he was going to take up chicken farming. He then asked to buy 100 chicks. "That’s a lot of chicks," commented the proprietor. "I mean business," the man replied. A week later the new chicken farmer was back again. "I need another 100 chicks," he said. "Boy, you are serious about this chicken farming," the man told him. "Yeah," the man replied. "If I can iron out a few problems." "Problems?" asked the proprietor. "Yeah," replied the man, "I think I planted that last batch too close together."

Before we start to farm. We need to be aware of the principles that are required and then we have to practice these principles to be successful. We are going to be talking about working in a vineyard. Farming is farming whether it is in a vineyard or raising green beans, corn or cabbage in the family garden. Or raising flowers on the porch. It is the amount of work and care given that allows the crops to grow into full maturity and produce food and beauty.

Some folks try to live life without effort, without understanding what our physical and spiritual life is supposed to be. Sometimes government, society and even some churches help in our lackadaisical attitudes. But ultimately we are the one that will face our Maker and account for the way we live our lives.
During the time that our Scripture was written the Israelites had a hard time staying away from the gods and idols of their neighbors. They were pulled to idolatry like steel balls to a magnet. They have different names today, of course, but we still are tempted by other gods-wealth, beauty, relationships, power, things.

It’s clear that Isaiah, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, isn’t talking specifically about a vineyard. He is talking about people and society and the way they chose to live. The obvious answer to why God abandoned them is they didn’t love him. They didn’t take God seriously. They didn’t respect him.

In their own vineyard they didn’t expend the effort to give the vines the enriched earth required to grow and they didn’t keep the weeds out of the vineyard. They didn’t keep the vineyard pure. Wild vines will mix with the grapes of the vineyard so they will not be as rich and full bodied as the pure vine. In Isaiah’s story they were content with letting the vines produce with little effort from them.

This relates to their religious life too. They were content with their life; they had what they needed. They were content with their religious rites and rituals with no actual fear or respect for the true God, the Lord Almighty. They were content to mix and match their religions and their secular lives so they would be comfortable in both worlds. They were so content that they made God into what they were instead of allowing God to make them into what he is.

Comfort and luxury seem to be our chief requirement of life even today. Our society is very slack in effort. It is easier to go with the flow of life. It is easier to go along with our friends and sometimes even our enemies than to go against the flow and do what God requires. But what most don’t understand is the effort we make to please our God is what makes our life worth while. Society actually respects those that chose to be followers of the one true God and live his teachings in their life. It is when we ask them to do what God requires that upsets them. But we are told by God to teach everyone what he requires from them and society.

What we really need is enthusiasm and respect for the God we encounter in the Bible. We need to sacrifice ourselves to the God that sacrificed himself for us. We need to cut off dead and sinful parts and fertilize our roots so that God doesn’t have to prune and dig around and disrupt our life to help us grow. God gives us so much and we give so little. God expects us to produce!

What’s so devious about sin is that it weakens the very character of a person; deep down in the "roots," sin defaces eats away and eventually that destroys the beauty and the blossoms of a community. When God’s word is despised, and he is cast away, what can we expect but to wonder if God has abandoned us? Does it sound like our society today or maybe the Church or our families and even us?

To those that have been given much, much is required. God has given us his Salvation. And he expects much from those that receive it from him. If we aren’t living up to our Salvation what are we going to do today to correct our spiritual life? Once we get our spiritual life in line with Gods will -our total life will be secure no matter what life throws at us. We will be a productive vineyard.

Chicken farmers don’t plant chickens. God’s people don’t bury their lives in the soil of sin. God’s people walk in the light as He is in the light. The light of God’s righteousness.

Hear the good news! God holds out a gift that can repair the vineyard of our lives and communities. Whether Christian or simply just exploring your religious options, God’s gift of repentance can change everything! Repentance isn’t a dirty word, or one reserved for the turn-or-burn evangelists. It’s God’s gift to us-the possibility of changing direction. It means we’re going down one path, and suddenly we have the opportunity to take a different path that leads us into more and more of the light. With a change of heart, mind, and direction-through Jesus the Christ-we can be a productive vineyard. Amen.